Friday, February 22 08:51:52
Cheap natural gas from extensive and hugely successful Shale Gas (Fracking) activities across America have transformed whole States and impacted on US energy markets. Now we can add another trend to the list: Nuclear power is starting to decline. Since 2010, the amount of electricity generated from America's nuclear reactors has fallen about 3 percent, or 29 billion kilowatt-hours.
That's a sizable drop: As John Hanger points out, we'd need to quadruple the number of solar installations in the United States just to make up the loss of that carbon-free electricity. So why is nuclear on the wane? Part of the story here is simply that America's fleet of reactors is aging and are being taken offline more frequently for repairs. The San Onofre plant near San Diego, for instance, has been out since January 2012 according to The Washington Post.
But a growing factor here is competition from cheap shale gas. This month, Duke Energy decided to close its Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida, offline since 2009, rather than pay $1.5 billion to repair a cracked dome. The reason? It was easier to build new natural-gas turbines to replace the lost electricity than repair the reactor. Last fall, Dominion Power announced that it would close its Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin, also citing pressures from cheap gas.
The impact has been huge right across the US economy, mostly positive, and that impact has implications as Europe examines it's options in the Shale Gas arena.
Report by Cathal O Dubhain